Riding 100 miles on a bike isn’t exactly an easy task.
Even for individuals that commute and ride all the time. Therefore when I choose to do a century I bring with me stuff to think about. Often times I end up coming up with thoughts I didn’t know were there or wasn’t acknowledging.
Beginning the ride was nice and smooth.
I left around 2:00am and headed for the West Orange trails. This way I could ride the majority of it out of the friendly Florida sun. The way to the trail was pretty well lit up, but not when I entered it! Aside from the light on the front of my bike I rode in complete darkness. Seeing small patches of light from nearby houses through the trees. I’ve ridden down the trail several times, but remembering every curve is something I haven’t mastered yet. That being said the ride became exciting quickly! I loved every bit of it, speeding up with my tunes cranking I was free from everything. No one knew where I was nor where I was going. Other than pulling over and taking my phone out of airplane mode to submit a picture no one had the ability to contact me. If you haven’t just unplugged from the world in a while I highly recommend it. People sometimes forget to think about themselves when the world is stuck between their thumbs. Not saying to be selfish, but if you don’t take the time to listen to yourself every once in a while you’ll end up becoming the world’s pet. I put myself in danger out on this ride and at the same time had the greatest sense of freedom.
Further down the trail I went by a few houses. Passing a group of guys that looked like they could be the dudes Will Smith described that were up to no good. I decided I wouldn’t make any trouble in their neighborhood and kept on pedaling. The trail seemed to lose some more light as I entered the next town. The danger of it started to consume me as I stood up to go faster while the fear that I could lose control increased.
The next area I came across had a well lit pedestrian bridge so I took advantage of it and snapped a picture, well a selfie. Not really sure why I needed that picture, but I hadn’t taken one yet so it seemed appropriate. When I reached the other side of the road I passed underneath the bridged and came across a homeless man in a wheelchair. He had bags tied to the side that looked like clothes and the rest of his possessions. The night was all about unexpected adventures so I stopped to talk with him. He was semi hiding behind one of the columns and appeared shocked that I pulled over by him. He asked about my bike ride and then offered to buy me a coffee at the Dunkin Donuts across the road. I declined and thanked him for the offer. I didn’t realize it until he pointed it out but I kept looking behind me. There wasn’t a reason really, but he left me with some wise words. “No point in looking behind you, the past looks the same as the first time you went by it.” I never asked that man for his name. Didn’t ask him to explain why he was under a bridge. Appreciate the talk.
After the bridge encounter I began looking inward at my own thoughts. The trail once again went black with my light leading the path. Right into a damn cobweb. Yeah a face full of it and it crossed my lips and I flailed my arms like a little girl. Immediately thought there was a spider somewhere on my body and it’s only goal in life now was to find my skin and attack it. Thankfully this didn’t happen.
I was lost.
Literally as well as in my own mind. I found my way to an unmarked dead end road, then laughed at myself when I reached it. Something I was used to doing in my life. Not realizing I was on a path to a dead end yet still heading straight for it ignoring anything that would hint at it. No use in being pissed over it so I turned around and retraced my route. Time to find a new road.
I came upon a sign depicting a bike route with an arrow. I choose to ignore the suggestion, took a picture of it and continued in my own direction. I’ve spent enough of my life traveling by the direction of others, I was done. I’ll be the one at the end of this trip of life, I get to decide how to end up there.
One of the benefits of riding at night, like I always do, is it’s safer. Sounds ridiculous right? During the day people are filled with distractions in their cars either texting or talking with other passengers while having full view of everything around them. At night people are more cautious and are more likely to see my blinking lights in front of them on a dark road. What isn’t safe are rouge raccoons that think it’s hilarious to dart out in front of me then stare into my bike light. This little F——r was in my direct path and looked as if it was ready to attack my soul. At the last second he bounced back into the woods leaving me wide eyed. Later on I would realize a raccoon was the least of my worries.
I somehow made it into Mount Dora.
I already had traveled to the left of it. This time I made a right. No idea where I was heading and I refused to pull out my phone to look at a map. A sign up ahead gave me two options. Never been to Sanford before. 22 miles wasn’t that bad considering I was about half way into the ride. 22 miles on a quiet road, in the dark, with signs warning of bear crossings is a long road to travel. Suddenly the raccoon wasn’t looking so bad huh?
I could tell I was almost to Sanford by the gas stations I was coming up to. Had to take a break and fix a flat tire. Sort of essential to the whole riding a bike thing. Took advantage of the stop by stretching out and loading up on peppered beef jerky. Much needed protein for my legs later on and spicy to keep me sipping water. Flat tires can teach you a lot about yourself. How you handle unexpected situations. I call them a pause button. Obviously I was meant to stop for something, up to me to find out why. This time it was just for beef jerky.
Around mile 70 or so I read a sign for Winter Springs and Oveido.
I know from looking at maps before that those are two names I didn’t want to be anywhere near while being in the 70 mile range. I was too far out. This time I did pull out my phone to figure out which direction to pedal in at least. Headed towards Maitland.
Along the way the tire I popped started losing air pressure. The side pump I had with me wasn’t living up to it’s hype and I had no other option than to stop every 5-10 miles to pump more into it. Then my back tire decided to be cute and pickup a nail. The sun was up now and I wasn’t grateful for this flat. Once again I pulled over, changed the tube out and filled it with as much air as I could get into it. To give you an idea of what I mean my tires are supposed to have 120 PSI. After checking later I figured out I rode on two of them at about 60-70 PSI. Making it difficult to pedal, but hey I was looking for a challenge right?
I knew of a couple bike shops in the approaching area that could possibly have an external air hookup outside their stores I could utilize. Damn memory lied to me. It was still hours before these shops would open up so I pedaled on. I looked for other options as the temperature went up. I anticipated seeing another cyclist especially in the Winter Park area. Someone had to have a more efficient pump with them. Nope. My only option was to continue in the direction I was heading.
At mile 95 I looked down at my garmin and realized I had a very clear shot at making one of my goals for this ride.
100 miles In under 6 hours! But first let’s go ahead and stick a piece of glass through my back tire. Yeah, third flat on this trip and it happened at mile 95. In the sun, with my legs begging me to just call it a day and accept defeat from the unforgiving road pricks. I popped off the back tire, looked at it and started laughing at the situation. What other option did I have? Throw a tantrum about it? I changed the tire and knew that the road ahead of me was mostly uphill. Of course it was. I was running out of time and energy, had to force myself back on the bike.
I overestimated how much time I had left to complete my goal and I realized this more and more as it came closer to 6 hours. Riding on two under inflated tires, exhausted, I had to focus. Kept repeating the mantra, “shut up legs” over and over under my breath.
Mile 97 just three more to go.
Shooting pains were slicing into the sides of my legs and I don’t want to begin to describe what sitting on a rock hard seat will do to your butt after hours of hard pedaling. Mile 98, the tenths of a mile seemed to be taking forever to change on the garmin display now. 6 hours was my goal and I wasn’t going to hold myself back from achieving it! I was done setting limitations on myself, I was going to complete this strong and carry that attitude with me off the bike. Mile 99, just one more to go and under 5 minutes to get there! I finally started seeing other cyclists as I passed the West Orange trail. I refused to stop. I didn’t need them anymore. I traveled this far, dealt with a hard second half and I wasn’t going to give up. My tires were losing air about the same pace as my legs were losing strength. Mile 95.5 I stopped listening to the pain and decided it was time to break my record. I rode into Winter Garden with sweat dripping off my lips. One destination on my mind, 100 miles. 5:58:48 was my time.
I slammed on my breaks took out my phone and proudly took a picture of what I had done. A mile back in the other direction was a bike shop and I needed to get some real air into my tires. One small issue with my finish line is that it was still 7 miles from where I live. My body had just informed me it was time to stop. I coasted and basked in the day for the last few miles. One hell of a trip.